If Congress fails to pass a new relief bill before the end of the year, the federal aid that was provided by the CARES Act and Donald Trump's executive orders will end, leaving millions of Americans in a very difficult economic situation.
The CARES Act was signed in March and included, among other measures, a stimulus check of $ 1,200 dollars, a weekly unemployment bonus of $ 600 dollars, eviction bans, and student loan help. Then, President Trump, in August, signed executive orders to extend them. All this help will expire on December 31 unless another stimulus bill is approved by Congress.
While some states continue to count the votes, the numbers already project Joe Biden as president-elect. One of the first challenges that the new federal administration will face will be to find a way to inject more money into the economy to boost it.
Both legislators and economics experts agree that more aid programs are needed to overcome the crisis, but legislators have different approaches, and this has prevented them from passing a new relief package.
If Congress cannot reach an agreement before the end of the year, these are the relief measures that will expire on December 31:
1. Eviction protection for tenants
The CARES Act provided a limited eviction ban, focusing only on homes backed by a federal mortgage loan or homes that received some form of federal funding.
The protection was expanded in September when the president asked the CDC to stop evictions for non-payment of rent, due to the risk of people being left on the streets in the midst of a pandemic. This agency order covered more than 43 million households.
2. Deferrals of federal student loans
Students who are paying off federal student loans also received help under the CARES Act, which gave them the option of deferring their loan payments and paused interest accrual until the end of September 2020.
In August, Trump extended the measure until December 31. On January 1, however, loan servicers will be able to collect interest on these loans again, and students will have to repay them unless servicers offer deferral options.
3. Extended unemployment benefits
The states are in charge of receiving applications for unemployment insurance and determining if a person is eligible, how much money they will receive, and for how long they can collect the aid.
The CARES Act extended the duration of benefits from 26 to 39 weeks, but as of January 1, 2021, that period of 13 additional weeks provided by the government ends.
4. The pandemic unemployment assistance program
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who were unemployed due to Covid-19 and who are not eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits, such as self-employed workers, contractors, and workers of the entertainment industry.
The PUA is scheduled to end on December 31, and if the federal government does not extend it, it will be up to the states to determine whether it continues.
5. Enhanced unemployment benefits
The average weekly unemployment benefit typically ranges from $ 300 to $ 600. To help fill the gap, the CARES Act added a weekly bonus of $ 600.
When that expired on July 31, Trump signed an executive order providing a smaller weekly bonus of $ 300 over a six-week period with the expectation that Congress would approve another aid package. Most states have exhausted the money.
The $ 300 federal benefit provision will end on December 27.